JUST WHAT I NEED

By John Thomas Tuft

I sat down to write down everything that I am not

Delineate my weaknesses, where I’m incomplete

I invited my shadows to dance with me

Pirouetting  toward the sun until they’re lost to the heat.

In ’69 I was eighteen and just off the chopper in DaNang

Carrying my rifle and a bandoleer of fears

Wading through rice paddies toward a village unknown

Ready to kill or be killed while drowning in tears.

They were lying in wait and opened up all around

Firefly flashes and rounds passing with a snap

We radioed for help from the 155s in the rear

To rain down death on the nameless spot of the map.

Through the hellscape of fires we moved on at last

I rounded a hooch and stared a young boy in the face

Both his arms had been blown away by the bombs

His eyes begging to understand this merciless place.

The lieutenant hollered that we had to move on

I was captured by the innocent horror in those eyes

But in that moment all hope seemed to be lost

And I finished him off much to my shocked surprise.

So, as we move into the season promising peace

And the singing of angels proclaiming holy seed

I still carry that boy’s eyes with me everywhere

A candle against the darkness now is just what I need.

(Adapted from true accounts of Vietnam veterans)